‘What do you think will be the best game of the year?’

Seemingly every year at the beginning of the year everyone asks themselves and each other what games are they most looking forward to and what they think will be the best. Often one question presupposes the other in the asking. 2013 is no different. Though after the landmark year that was 2012 I think that the question is fundamentally different than it was in previous years.

You hear this question being asked between gamers in conversations and if you listen to gaming podcasts on there too. But it is such a standard question in those settings that I never really notice it. It wasn’t until I heard the question asked of the panel at the New York City Game Critic Circle Awards that I took stock of the question myself.

Over the past few years I’ve found myself more and more extraditing myself from the hype cycle that comes about for every new game. I’m far more interested in the after launch evaluations. Overall I just feel better in ignoring all the hype game companies try to sell their game with. Most of it doesn’t work on me anyway, because they never address what I’m looking for in a game. This is long winded way of saying off the top of my head I couldn’t remember any games that were coming out this year. I remembered Bioshock Infinite and I guess I can say I’m excited for it and see what Ken Levine and company can do, but it’s a muted excitement.

Back to the New York City Game Critic Circle Awards, nearly everyone on the panel did say Biochock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto and some other big budget game that has been announced. In my head I was thinking yes they’re known games and are probably going to be really good, but I couldn’t get really excited for them. I’d play them when I played them…maybe. A much more interesting variant of the question ‘what games are you excited for’ is ‘what do you think will be the best games of the year?’

It’s a bit of fun playing Nostradamus and looking ahead after quite a bit of time looking behind. Almost ritualistically so. We spend the end of the year looking back at all the great games and in our own ways (mostly having to do with numbers and rankings) evaluating them as a group with regards to the others and as a whole. Then we look forward to the New Year to see what excites us and what we hope for.

2012 changed how we do that, or at least how we should do that. Routinely the best game of the year for many discussing this question was The Walking Dead or Journey or Hotline Miami or FTL or Mark of the Ninja. Some will say Mass Effect 3, Halo 4, Dishonoured or X-Com: Enemy Unknown, but the vast majority isn’t. They are looking to or are surprised by all of these smaller indie games taking the top spots and so many of them. This isn’t the adorned yearly indie darling, but for many they are outnumbering the AAA titles.

Furthering this trend is the likes of Kickstarter and open sourced easy to use game making tools like Unity, Adventure Game Maker and Twine. FTL was a game that hadn’t started being made before 2012 and is haled as one of the best of the year. Hotline Miami was an unknown until it burst onto the scene so fervently it couldn’t be ignored. No one gave The Walking Dead a second look if they knew Tell Tale Games was making it at all. The fact of the matter is what I think the best of games of the year will be a list of games I haven’t heard of yet. Possibly games that haven’t been started on or even conceived by their creators yet. Already Kentucky Road Zero has taken many by surprise with its storytelling methods. Granted it was started a few years ago from a Kickstarter funding, but that was before Kickstarter was cool, before it was known. Antichamber is bewitching its players with its nonconventional design and baffling law or reality. Depression Quest, a twine game, popped up last week and has spawned more discussion on artistic quality and merit than any other game this year.

So yes, Tomb Raider looks fun, Bioshock Infinite looks interesting, I’m curious about Remember Me and the newly dated Watch Dogs could certainly make a splash. I’m not as excited for them as I would have been in the past. But the possibilities of an indie game, Twine or not, published on Steam or not, by a developer I know or not sparks excitement and desire in me more than anything else. I hope last year’s trend continues and we push forward into this new wave of gaming headlong.

With the new consoles supposedly being announced soon and possibly coming out this year quality AAA may take a step back as developers get used to the new hardware and possibilities like at the beginning of every console cycle. Plus with the first round of huge Kickstarter games releasing and the mini-consoles opening up the living room to a different brand of play, I hope and kind of expect 2013 not to look like any other year before. This could be the perfect storm. If my end of year list isn’t populated by indie games with one or two token AAA thrown in I will be very disappointed. And that is what games I’m most excited for, ones I haven’t even heard of yet.

Viva la revolution!!!

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